I can easily see why this book makes the must-read-before-one-dies lists; it's a layered and complex comment on truth and art in which the reader questions his or her own ideas of truth. By the end of the novel, I'd questioned several times the veracity of what I'd read - from different characters, no less.
Murdoch excels at what I call "intellectual madcap;" she creates situations in which characters are thrown together in odd circumstances and despite the tragic comedy of it all, try to make the best out of it. Hilarity invariably ensues. I love that about Murdoch.
About halfway through, things take a dark and bleak turn as marriages, lives, and sanity quickly disintegrate with the virtual lighter fluid of erotic love. The main character, Bradley, is a pathetic waste of a human being. His narcissism overwhelmed and disgusted me. Then, I realized that this was maybe what Murdoch was trying to do.
The postscripts at the end of the novel speak volumes about the novel, itself (a work of fiction? a confessional? both?), and each gives it a Sixth Sense type feel. I began to think I hadn't understood the novel at all. But that was another of Murdoch's tricks: make you doubt yourself.
What I got out of this book was that Murdoch wanted to make a comment on art and how we'll never know the true intent of the artist and we all experience the art in a different way. There are three sides to every story: his way, her way, and the truth. Well, Murdoch says we'll never know the truth but can certainly try our best to piece it together for ourselves from what *we* know to be true. But always doubt what you know because you can never be certain.
Book Description: "In this riveting tale of love and intellectual intrigue, Murdoch gives us a seductive story with ever-mounting action, including suicide, abduction, romantic idylls, murder, and due process of law."
With an Introduction by Martha C. Nussbaum
Inside Flap Copy: "A story about being in love The Black Prince is also a remarkable intellectual thriller with a superbly involuted plot, and a meditation on the nature of art and love and the deity who rules over both. Bradley Pearson, its narrator and hero, is an elderly writer with a 'block'. Encompassed by predatory friends and relations - his ex-wife, her delinquent brother and a younger, deplorably successful writer, Arnold Baffin, together with Baffin's restless wife and youthful daughter - Bradley attempts escape. His failure and its aftermath lead to a violent climax; and to a coda which casts a shifting perspective on all that has gone before."